7 Things I Wish I Knew About Christianity Before Becoming A Christian

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Christianity comes with a lot of expectations. Some are biblical. Some, we’ve grafted on.

Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of what our lives will look like after accepting Christ into our lives. We think seasoned Christians have it all together, always feel close to God and never doubt.

But it doesn’t take long for those illusions to be shattered. We soon realize that following Christ doesn’t look exactly like we expected.

Here are 7 things I wish I knew about Christianity before becoming a Christian:

It’s Really Hard.

There’s a dangerous tendency to sugarcoat the Christian life and market it as an easy, joyous, successful and wonderful alternative to the “secular” existence.

The Christian faith will surely have its blissful moments, but much of it requires and demands service, sacrifice, dedication, humility, patience, forgiveness, mercy, compassion and work—the things that manifest Christ-like love. Not only is this not easy, but usually it’s extremely hard.

Following Jesus is messy, grueling, uncomfortable and requires an extraordinary amount of time, energy, effort and grace.

There’s a reason ministry leaders burnout at alarming rates, church attendance numbers decline, and friends seemingly abandon the faith—following Jesus is messy, grueling, uncomfortable and requires an extraordinary amount of time, energy, effort and grace.

Christianity is often perceived as an escape mechanism, a crutch, a way to easily avoid the harsh realities of life, but it’s the exact opposite—it’s a journey that embraces truth and confronts the world in brave, honest and often painfully difficult ways. Prepare yourself for not just the good, but also the bad—and especially the ugly.

It Doesn’t Fix Things.

After hearing miraculous testimonies about people being healed, addictions overcome, lives transformed and being inundated with the Biblical stories of redemption, hope and reconciliation—expectations about Christianity can be pretty high.

Yes, God does amazing and unexplainable things, but eventually you’ll realize that Christianity won’t solve all your problems.

Sicknesses don’t go away, broken relationships don’t get better, your income doesn’t improve—troubles don’t disappear. What happened?

The Christian faith is more about creating a relationship with God than finding a magic solution to all of life’s difficulties. Unfortunately, many still treat Christianity as a spiritual formula to get what they want. When the inevitable disappointment arrives, so do feelings of betrayal, cynicism, disappointment and anger. Many people abandon “Christianity” altogether because it didn’t meet their preconceived expectations—no matter how unrealistic or selfish they were.

You Won’t Have All the Answers.

The Gospel is often presented The Answer to all of life’s deepest questions, and it does give purpose and meaning to our existence, but Christianity doesn’t completely eradicate doubts, intellectual struggles and philosophical inquiries. In fact, it often brings up even more questions than answers.Biblical content is debated by thousands of pastors, theologians and believers, and each doctrine is associated with hundreds of theories, ideas and traditions. If you’re looking for decisive, conclusive, and indisputable facts, Christianity will offer some, but ultimately, it’s about finding God—and once you find Him, the evidence will speak for itself.

You Never Stop Learning and Changing.

Your faith will change. Life happens. For example, we may grow older, get a job, meet new people, travel, understand new cultures, fall in love, get married, have kids and experience thousands of different moments that ultimately shape and influence the way we think about God.

My theology is different now than when I was in elementary school, and it changed in middle school, and after high school, and during college and once I become an adult—constantly maturing.

We often treat our faith as if it’s something static, immovable and permanent. God is eternally unchanging, but our faith isn’t. We see this throughout the Bible, as the Israelites—and even the disciples in the New Testament—had their understanding of God change as different occurrences and events happened to them.

We often treat our faith as if it’s something static, immovable and permanent. God is eternally unchanging, but our faith isn’t.

Our faith is a “Pilgrim’s Progress” involving ups and downs and numerous changes. Many believers fearfully avoid change and see it as some sort of sin—and you can certainly go from a good belief to a bad belief—but the concept of change itself shouldn’t be avoided, especially since it’s at the very heart of Jesus’ teachings.

You’ll Still Make Mistakes.

The most dangerous and self-righteous people are those who think they’re incapable of doing anything wrong and who never admit mistakes.

To be human is to blunder. Christianity doesn’t change that. You’ll still fail, stumble and make horrible decisions, but the difference is that you’ll have the reassurance of God’s grace, mercy and love.

It’s Complex.

The term “Christian” means many different things to many different people. There are hundreds of unique denominations, thousands of different churches, and a myriad of traditions and theologies intertwined within them.

The classifications are endless. It doesn’t take long to realize that Christianity is filled with complexity, nuance and variety. There are divisions, debates and conflict, but also unity, dialogue and accountability. Overall, its way more complicated than most people realize—but God still works through it.

It’s Not Us vs. Them.

Christians often rage against secularism, the “Fallen World” and “Evil Forces.” Whether intentional or not, it can become easy to assume that Christians are engaged in a battle against non-Christians—but we’re not.

Christians are in a very real battle against evil—against Satan—but we need to be careful not to view unbelievers as the enemy. It’s easy to become completely immersed within a “Christian Bubble” and alienate yourself from the rest of humanity—self-righteously judging, shaming and fearfully avoiding the world around us.

But God loves everyone. This message is radical and controversial and absurd—but according to the Bible, it’s true, and as followers of Christ we should boldly do the same. So no matter how you feel about your faith, simply ask God to give you the strength and capacity to follow Christ’s example!

 

Published originally on Relevantmagazine.com:  http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/7-things-i-wish-i-knew-about-christianity-becoming-christian

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21 thoughts on “7 Things I Wish I Knew About Christianity Before Becoming A Christian

  1. I usually don’t like Relevant mag sometimes (read some articles that basically said to settle in marriage… and to settle for a not amazing sex life)… it really turned me off to that kind of Christianity. Glad to see your article was featured in it though!

  2. Congrats on the Relevant publication. You deserve it.

    This line: “Following Jesus is messy, grueling, uncomfortable and requires an extraordinary amount of time, energy, effort and grace.”

    Wow.

    Once again, you have voiced some of the challenges a lot of Christians face. I remember as a young Christian being led to believe that after praying the prayer and accepting Jesus… I’m saved. Praise God! Now, go do the right things, come to church (this church), read your Bible, and pray every morning, before every meal, and before bed. Heaven is waiting for you.

    But no mention of the struggle, of taking up my cross, of being a living sacrifice, and (most importantly) of caring for the hurt, the poor, the needy.

    I also struggled as a teenager as I saw nonbelievers and even other believers living affluent lives while my parents scraped by on low-income jobs while raising two children. I prayed, I read my Bible, I came to church (the same church), but we stayed poor, my clothes were still hand-me-downs, and my mom still cried more often than she laughed.

    So everything you say here, I get. But I hold to the promises that Jesus made that anyone who believes in Him will continue the work he has done and do even greater things for the Kingdom. And, as Jesus promised, I rely on the Holy Spirit to strengthen me through all of those things you mentioned.

    Sorry for my long response. But you always stir something that inspires me to speak up.

    • Stephen Mattson

      Thanks, Jason! I love your response and input, and I think you nailed it on the head with the struggle you experienced as a teen–I know a lot of people went through similar trials! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love this. It’s also not Us vs. Them within Christianity. Unfortunately, we still have lots to learn on that account. We always seem to think the EGR folks are “those” people – usually, it’s us! 🙂 Great post, as usual.

  4. Guillermo Navarro

    A very interesting point of view.
    I would love to translate some of this staff to the spanish language, if you allow me (I’m from Chile).

  5. So agree. It’s a hot topic for me as well. Get so tired of the cliches Christains banter about. And especially the lack of knowledge of the entirety of scripture. Bring a follower of Christ IS hard, but the relationship with our father is what gives us wings. God bless.

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